Airbnb roulette in the run-up to Russia′s World Cup | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 16.06.2018
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Airbnb roulette in the run-up to Russia's World Cup

Russia expects to welcome around 3.5 million visitors during the soccer World Cup — and they all need somewhere to stay. DW correspondent Yulia Vishnevetskaya decided to advertise her apartment on Airbnb.

I got the idea of renting out my apartment during the 2018 World Cup from my friend Marina. She's been letting her apartment to tourists for quite a while now through Airbnb, the biggest online marketplace for private accommodation. Marina says she and her family can always go and stay in the countryside, and it's a way of bringing in some extra money. "My landlord doesn't know about it," she says. "I don't think he cares."

Read more: Most Germans polled think Chancellor Angela Merkel should visit World Cup

Usually, Marina rents out one room in her two-room apartment for 4,000 rubles (around €55 or $63) per day. All her personal belongings are in the other room, which she keeps locked. Last autumn demand for accommodation in the summer of 2018 sharply increased, and she put the rent up to 5,000 rubles (around €68) per day.

Russia DW correspondent Yulia Vishnevetskaya (DW/Yulia Vishnevetskaya)

Yulia Vishnevetskaya, DW correspondent in Moscow

"In December, the apartment was already booked out for the whole of the World Cup," Marina says. If she'd waited a bit longer, she might have made considerably more: "I could have cancelled the bookings and asked for more money, but that would have had a negative effect on my rating on the site."

January 2018 saw a big leap in demand for rental accommodation in the World Cup venue cities. An old one-room apartment in Mytishchi on the outskirts of Moscow, for example, was being advertised for €250 a day. You could hardly find any apartments in central Moscow for less than €400. Beds in hostels were on offer for the equivalent of €160 to €200 a day.

Read more: Kremlin says Russian women can sleep with whomever they want

Not such a fast buck

And so I thought: I could spend a month in the country as well, and earn a nice bit of extra cash. My family and I moved into a rental apartment in central Moscow last winter. I waited until spring to register with Airbnb, though, because people were saying the rents would keep on rising. I arranged to split any World Cup income above my rent of €700 a month with my landlord.

It was a mistake to wait that long. Many Muscovites had had the same idea about renting out their apartments to World Cup visitors. By the time I placed the ad with Airbnb in April, the daily rate in Moscow had dropped to between €150 and €300. I asked for €250. The apartment was immediately booked for two days by a family from Colombia.

Then I got a message from a group of French people. They wanted to know if I could register them with the local authorities on the day of their arrival. Usually, foreigners in Russia have to register within seven days of arriving in the place where they are staying, but this regulation has been tightened up for the World Cup. From May 25 to July 25, all foreigners arriving in the host cities have to be registered with the Federal Migration Service within 24 hours by the owner of the apartment. My landlord considered for several days before eventually saying he was prepared to take the French group's passports to the authorities. They, however, hadn't waited that long.

Price drop

After this no one showed any interest in my apartment for two weeks, and during this time the rents dropped even further — to an average of €165 a day. Seven Argentines booked the apartment for about this price. They're paying €848 for five days, but €50 of this goes on cleaning, and Airbnb automatically gets €31.

Then I was able to rent out my apartment for the first week of July to four young Spanish-speaking men from San Francisco, for €638. I'm still negotiating with some other Argentines. Minus our monthly basic rent, the cleaning, taxes and landlord's portion, I'm looking at a net profit of €680 — in other words, not a fortune.

You can now rent an apartment in the center of Moscow during the World Cup for €90 and upwards, which are normal prices. Yekaterina Simaryeva, a Russian estate agent, says she's also getting fewer inquiries now. Only 43 of the Moscow apartments on her books are rented out, even though she has a large network of clients and has been an expert on the Moscow property market for years. Most of the people looking for accommodation through her company aren't ordinary football fans, but are working directly for the World Cup in some capacity.

A picture of Moscow at night, taken from a bridge (AP)

Accomodation prices in Moscow have dropped considerably

Concerns about behavior

Accessing your Airbnb income is also not that straightforward. The website sends renters an American Payoneer card they can use to access the cash abroad. However, a charge of between 2 and 4 percent is applied, depending on how much you withdraw. Marina says she prefers to use the card for online payments. "I wait until I've accumulated a large sum of money, then I book plane tickets with it, for example," she says. She plans to use her World Cup earnings to buy a new computer.

We're both wondering how our World Cup guests are going to behave. Marina has already warned them in advance that the neighbors are entitled to call the police if they make a lot of noise after 11 p.m.. I'm crossing my fingers for Argentina, because if Lionel Messi's team loses there may not be that much left of my apartment. I hope I won't have to spend my World Cup rental income on renovations.

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